wrentham downtown

Downtown Wrentham

WRENTHAM — A roundabout, traffic circle and changes to angular parking have been proposed as ways to improve traffic flow and enhance safety in the center of town.

A group of Northeastern University civil engineering seniors have for the past few months been studying the four-intersection, seven-street downtown area and coming up with the improvement ideas.

Those ideas were presented to selectmen Tuesday night.

The proposed redesign, which was shown in maps and diagrams, will better serve drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, the students said.

A roundabout with slip lanes is proposed for the main intersection of routes 1A and 140, which the students found has an accident rate nearly double the district average.

Roundabouts are smaller rotaries, and the state is advocating they be used to improve traffic flow and safety.

“I love roundabouts. That’s the way things are going,” Director of Planning and Economic Development Rachel Benson said.

Selectman Jerry McGovern said he is a big fan of roundabouts and board Chairman Joseph Botaish noted he grew up in Boston, where they are common. He added they would help beautify downtown.

Norfolk has roundabouts in its downtown area, and they have been proposed for other area towns.

A traffic circle, which is a small roundabout, is proposed for the end of David Brown Way, the short road that bisects the town common, as it intersects Common Street.

Common Street would be a one-way route into the downtown.

Another recommendation is to connect available green space near the downtown. Straightening out David Brown Way would add land to the common, the report noted.

The downtown angular parking has long been considered dangerous and has been criticized by the state, but downtown businesses over the years have fought any changes, worried about losing parking.

The students propose reversing the angular parking, with vehicles backing in instead of driving forward.

Under the student plan, parking spaces would increase overall, from 111 to 146 within a five-minute walk.

The students, who used drones to study Wrentham’s center, also surveyed residents and got about 180 respondents.

Residents expressed concerns with speeding and crosswalks, and indicated they would bike more if they felt it was safer, student Cameron Parker said.

To improve crosswalks, which students found are up to 70 feet wide and take up to 23 seconds to cross, an island is proposed to divide travel lanes on South Street (Route 1A).

Separating sidewalks with extended curbs is also suggested, including on Dedham Street (Route 1A).

“You’ve alleviated so many problems,” Selectman Gerry Nolan said. “It’s wonderful.”

“I like it a lot, great job,” James Anderson, selectman and former police chief, said. “I saw a lot of the accidents.”

Selectman Stephen Langley called the students plan “fantastic.”

“I really did like the traffic flow,” he said.

Student and project manager Jessica O’Neil said the work would cost an estimated $2.6 million.

The plan involves a “complete streets” approach the state is pushing that encourages pedestrians and bicyclists. It can lead to grant money, pointed out Northeastern University Professor Daniel Dulaski, who is overseeing the student project. He noted some changes could be done on a trial basis.

It was pointed out Northeastern students helped Mansfield receive a $2.4 million state grant to redo its train station area, one of 45 projects in 22 communities students from the school have been involved with in the past decade.

Town Administrator Kevin Sweet highlighted the fact the study didn’t cost the town anything.

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.

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